Rovers soundly beaten by Falkirk Bairns
Raith Rovers went down 3-1 to in-form Falkirk on a bitterly cold afternoon at The Falkirk Stadium.
Rovers fielded an unchanged line-up from that which started last Saturday’s 1-0 Scottish Cup win against Dundee at Dens Park. Before the match, both sets of supporters in a near-3000 crowd observed a one minute applause in memory of former South African president, Nelson Mandela who sadly passed away during the week. Mandela was a great leader, something Rovers could have done with on a day like today.
Falkirk created the first chance of the game as early and the 2nd minute, but Jay Fulton seen his shot go wildly high and wide of Ross Laidlaw’s goal.
Just a minute later, Falkirk struck the opening blow to the visiting Rovers. After some neat passing, Stephen Kingsley crossed for the unmarked Craig Sibbald to head easily past Laidlaw to put Falkirk 1-0 up. It was the worst possible start for Rovers on the newly-laid synthetic surface at Falkirk.
Rovers created their first half-chance on the game on 7 minutes, but Ross Callachan’s low cross was easily cut out by the Falkirk defence and from the resulting break The Bairns drove upfield with the ball eventually working its way to former Rangers trainee Rory Loy, whose low drive was smartly turned behind by the legs of Laidlaw in the Rovers goal. Keiran Duffie bulleted a header over the bar from the corner.
Falkirk were making all of the early running in what was developing into a poor game and it was the home side who fashioned another opportunity in the 16th minute. Jay Fulton fired in a free kick, David McCracken connected with a firm header but the ball flew comfortably over Ross Laidlaw’s crossbar. Given the pattern of play, Rovers were lucky only to be one goal down at that stage.
The game fell away again, until Falkirk doubled their lead in the 24th minute. A number of short, sharp passes from several home players eventually worked the ball into the penalty box where the ball broke to Conor McGrandles, he comfortably slotted the ball under Ross Laidlaw to give The Bairns a deserved 2-0 lead. Falkirk were good value for their lead as they were simply ripping Rovers open with their quality, possession football.
On the half hour, Rovers created their best chance (or should that be chances!) of the match up to that point. The Falkirk defence somehow contrived to block three Raith shots on goal in the space of 15 seconds in a penalty box stramash of the highest order. How the ball did not end up in the back of the net from at least one of those chances will forever remain a mystery.
Rovers produced another decent chance with 35 minutes on the clock. Joe Cardle played the ball into Gordon Smith, but Smith could only fire a shot well over goalkeeper Michael McGovern’s bar. Rovers were coming into the game a little more now, but creating half-chances and not taking them away was ultimately the difference between the two teams.
It was the home side who fashioned the next opportunity in the 37th minute. Ex-Arsenal man, Philip Roberts was given a free run at the Rovers defence, but he pulled a low shot off target and the score stayed 2-0 to the home side. Falkirk had one more chance before the half, but Mark Millar fired wide of the target after good work by Rory Loy.
The half-time whistle was music to the ears of Rovers fans, who had watched a rotten first 45 minutes for the visitors. In fairness to the home side though, Falkirk were excellent value for their 2-0 lead.
It took all of 19 seconds after the restart for the first chance to be created in the second half, and it went the way of Rovers. Jason Thomson embarked on one of his customary runs into the opposition penalty area and lashed a shot at Michael McGovern, who turned the ball behind. Rovers then forced a second corner, only for Grant Anderson to shoot straight at McGovern.
The Bairns landed the knockout shot in the 49th minute. A corner from the left was whipped into the box, where Stephen Kingsley rose above Ross Laidlaw and headed the ball into the back of the net. 3-0 Falkirk, game well and truly over.
Falkirk missed another incredible chance on 54 minutes. Mark Millar swung in a free kick from the left, David McCracken got to the ball unchallenged but somehow conspired to send his free header flashing across goal. It could, and probably should, have been 4-0 to the home side.
Greig Spence replaced Gordon Smith on 59 minutes for Rovers. Smith had been largely ineffective all game, so it was no real surprise to see Spencey come on in his place. It was the spark that Rovers needed.
Rovers made themselves another good chance with 68 minutes gone. Calum Elliot played a neat pass into the penalty box for the onrushing Kevin Moon, but Moon couldn’t get hold of the ball and the chance came to nothing.
A series of substitutions for both teams then followed, with Lewis Vaughan replacing Joe Cardle for Rovers and on-loan Wigan striker, Rakish Bingham replacing Philip Roberts and Johnny Flynn on for Will Vaulks for Falkirk.
Rovers pulled a goal back 18 minutes from time, substitute Greig Spence squeezing the ball home after he had kept it from going behind for a corner. It was scant consolation for Rovers, but at least they had given a decent away support something to cheer on an otherwise miserable afternoon.
Both teams then created a number of half-chances as the game again died away, and it was the home side who in the end ran out deserving 3-1 winners. In the week where the management team of Grant Murray, Paul Smith and Laurie Ellis all signed new contracts keeping them at Stark’s Park until 2016, there will no doubt be great disappointment in the Rovers dressing room at a poor performance in a game where Raith were simply outplayed by Falkirk.
Photos: Eddie Doig